May 24

Why My Autism Is Good for Your English

By Dr Julian Northbrook

I mentioned this briefly yesterday…

… but my autism is a damn good thing for you and your English.

Well, with one caveat anyway.

First, strong attention to detail and excellent pattern recognition (which is why I’m so good at getting right to the core of people’s problems in English).

There are neurological reasons for this related to the number of connections we have in the brain (which is likely what causes the autism in the first place… though nobody knows for sure).

We tend to look at everything objectively, painfully-honestly and with no bullshit or fear of hurting people’s feelings. Which is where the caveat comes in. Aspies often come across as rude… which I know I certainly do. So don’t expect tact or sensitivity to your “feelings” when I, say, give you feedback on your English, because it’ll simply be brutally honest.

We also tend to have intense, and very, very focused “special interests”.

From the moment I first stepped into a language classroom (what, 13 years ago now?) I’ve been fixated, obsessed and driven to know everything about English, linguistics, and learning and teaching English.

Thing is though, I’ve been fixated on language since LONG before then.

I’ve always been fascinated with people and the way they interact.

Fascinated with…

But perhaps in the same way a biologist is fascinated with the frog he is dissecting.

When I look at what I did at art university, there was a similar theme there, too. My paintings were always about complexity and human behaviour.

See, when I was a kid, I used to get teased a lot because I didn’t get stuff.

I’d fail to laugh when others did, or worse…

… laugh when they didn’t.

As I mentioned yesterday, I’m not just like a “native speaker” who speaks naturally and fluently, and performs well in conversations… but with no idea why.

I mean, I have the intuitions of a native speaker (of course) regarding what sounds natural or grammatical. But things like working out when people are joking or being sarcastic, as well as small talk and other totally pointless stuff that ‘normal’ people seem to need was really, really had. And I had to learn it, just like you do in English.

So the point is, I’ve got a highly developed understanding of how people use English simply from a lifetime of fascination and learning.


Now it sounds like I’m boasting.

Which isn’t the point.

I guess what I really want to say, is every cloud has a silver lining.

Use what you’ve got…

… and forget about what you haven’t.

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